Another pre-season game and a third consecutive 4-0 win gave a degree of satisfaction to the Top Field faithful – but in many ways this was the most intriguing game, and one approached with laudable caution. Manager Mark Burke, speaking to me before the game predicted a tough game – since the visitors were of equivalent standing in the Southern League, but contesting in the Premier Division, South.
The opening, though, was a little inauspicious since Beaconsfield began in earnest and, for twenty-five minutes looked as if they would be rewarded for their creativity and willingness to shoot on sight. It was one of those curious occasions where the team with the initiative loses that initiative and never regains it, and once again the wily poaching of Callum Stead was pleasingly in evidence – this time scoring two goals in two minutes.
But in the beginning Dan Webb, at the centre of defence found himself rather busy and happily effective. An early effort from Beaconsfield’s Jordan Ajanlekoko and Alex Lafleur was intercepted by Webb. Aaron Minhas had a blocked shot and we were soon made aware of the fire power of the Beaconsfield number nine, Dylan Kearney, who could hit a ball like Peter Lorimer or Jon Sammels, for those who remember them. Horlock held his first effort but looked beaten on the admirable second strike that shook the goal post. The ex-Sutton United player may be deemed unfortunate with that one. He had the build of a brick out-house, but this did not diminish his skills.
Webb recovered under pressure from another move but Aaron Minhas tested Horlock with another shot. The visitors were also tight in defence, denying Hitchin any space in the final third and it is my duty to record that until their opening goal Hitchin did not manage a direct shot on goal. This was a reminder that the forthcoming season would pose a very strong challenge to the Hitchin squad – if Beaconsfield typified the opposition.
Hitchin were, of course, trying hard – with some close passing out of defence, some searching passes – but the Buckinghamshire club still continued to look likelier to score. Ajanlekoko had a clear chance and he cleverly tried to lob Horlock who managed to get a hand to it, conceding the corner, which was one of those that were nervously defended and all but scrambled away.
Kearney’s riotous blast of a free-kick looked destined (and deservedly ) to open the scoring, but Horlock again managed to get a hand to it – and my thought was that there would be a goal coming soon. I was right, but contrary to my gloomy expectation the opener went to Hitchin when Stead, opportunistic as ever latched onto an inviting pass and converted smartly, as is his most pleasing habit in these pre-season games. My notes read ‘against the run’ of play and it was. Rubbing salt into Beaconsfield wounds Stead replicated this feat within a minute and before half an hour had been played Hitchin, who had chased the game were suddenly two goals to the good – and opportunities had been maximised. The effect of the visitors was devastating as they never looked really dangerous again in this game – perhaps underlined by Luke Brown’s crack on goal that needed a fine save that conceded the corner kick. Dan Akubuine needed to be replaced owing to an injury and this gave Delsin Ackon a chance to showcase his talents, as Hitchin consolidated their dominance.
Ryan Smith provided the assistance for a possible Stead hat-trick, but this was defended, then – five minutes before half-time, with Smith again providing the assistance, Rio Dasilva cut in from the left and unleashed a memorable shot to put Hitchin three goals up. The half drew to a close with Smith again seeking Stead and the effort was successfully defended. It had been a remarkable half at that, with Beaconsfield in apparent disarray after a masterful opening spell.
There was considerable interest shown in one of Beaconsfield’s substitutes – namely the forty-two year old Jefferson Louis, who was, apparently, making an appearance for his fortieth club. That is remarkable – giving rise to the suggestion that he must have had a lot of disagreements and left a club if they substituted him! To his credit, he looked half his age and did his best to rally his flagging troops in the second half, which saw the usual multi substitutions – as well as one or two unsavoury incidents which adds credence to the view that there is no such thing as a friendly match. All players contested the game like a cup tie, which is always welcome.
The fourth goal for Hitchin came in the fifty-fourth minute and was the result of Alex Marsh’s persistence under pressure. The energetic Dasilva played a large part and his pass to Marsh saw the latter gain control, show some adept footwork in the crowded penalty area and slip the ball past the keeper. Since the game is a lot about making the most of created chances , the score did not flatter Hitchin who played the remainder of the game well in control.
Callum Webb’s over robust challenge on Alex Brown caused a degree of consternation and recrimination, and the referee, Mr Tom Danaher handled it sensibly; he issued no card as he would have done in a competitive match, and he calmed the protests of the Hitchin players. Ironically a later challenge by Kye Tearle was almost as bad and he esacped with a prolonged reprimand.
A Hitchin free-kick by Alex Marsh was robustly cleared and a fine effort from Josh Coldicott-Stevens went wide, following a corner won by Dasilva. Beaconsfield’s substitute Tyrone Lewthwaite had a reasonable shot but horlock held it comfortably. Henry Snee had a good forward run but it was cut short by good defending and Ryan Smith’s fine shot brought a good save as well. Tearle set up Sam Kelly for a shot and this brought another fine save, conceding the corner. Hitchin were comfortable and confident and the game ended after Max Ryan’s air shot – and despite the away team’s pressure at the start of the match, this was an excellent performance by Hitchin – twelve goals in three games and clean sheets in them all.
On Saturday Hitchin make the very short journey to Sharpenhoe Road to take on old friends and rivals Barton Rovers, still managed by ex Canary Tony Fontanelle, and I expect that game will have an edge to it.
Charlie Horlock, Dan Akubuine, (Delsin Ackon), Alex Brown, (Max Ryan), Ryan Smith, Dan Webb, captain, (Darion Furlong), Ciaren Jones, ( Ben Walster), Alex Marsh, GOAL, 54 MINUTES, (Sam Kelly), Josh Coldocott-Stevens, (Henry Snee), Callum Stead, Two GOALS, 28 AND 29 MINUTES, (Kye Tearle), Luke Brown, Rio Dasilva, (Jake Davis), Jack Green came on – not sure for whom.
Nathan Godfrey and Lawrie Marsh were the other subsitiutes.
Trialist A, Josh Webb, Oliver Sprague, Trialist B, Babs Jarra, Jordan Ajanlekoko, Trialist C, Harrison Bayley, Dylan Kearney, Aaron Minhas, Alex Lafleur. Substitutes used – James Taylor, Callum Webb, Carl Stewart, Nathan Webb, Andre Chiriac, Jefferson Louis, Tyrone Lewthwaite.
Other substitutes – Matteo Giacobbe and Toby Little.
REFEREE: Mr Tom Danaher, assisted by Mr Robert Poole and Mr Jorden Gibson.
REPORT BY PIPEMAN